Bands back on the bricks

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■ Crowd estimated at 150-175 for opening night

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  • Bands on the Bricks spectators were asked to bring their own chairs and spread out for this year’s event, which debuted Friday with the first of six summer performances. News-Register/Kurt Johnson
    Bands on the Bricks spectators were asked to bring their own chairs and spread out for this year’s event, which debuted Friday with the first of six summer performances. News-Register/Kurt Johnson
  • Mike Semrad said he and the River Hawks were glad to finally be performing in front of a live audience. News-Register/Kurt Johnson
    Mike Semrad said he and the River Hawks were glad to finally be performing in front of a live audience. News-Register/Kurt Johnson
  • Several youngsters were moving to the groove during Friday’s Bands on the Bricks debut in downtown Aurora. News-Register/Kurt Johnson
    Several youngsters were moving to the groove during Friday’s Bands on the Bricks debut in downtown Aurora. News-Register/Kurt Johnson
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The band was back on the bricks in downtown Aurora Friday, kicking off a summer music series in the midst of a pandemic which organizers said changed but could not stop the popular summer celebration.

“I thought the turnout was perfect,” said Sara Sutherland, president of the Aurora Chamber of Commerce board which coordinated the event for the event for the third consecutive year. “We had a great crowd, which was really pretty consistent with the first week from the previous two years, so I was really happy to show the band a good ol’ Aurora welcome.”

Attendance was light as the music began at 6 p.m., due perhaps in part to the threatening clouds looming to the north. The crowd continued to grow throughout the two-hour gig, Sutherland reported, though spread out more this year to the COVID social distancing guidelines.

“I didn’t know what to expect this year with the way everything has been the last few months,” she admitted. “I wasn’t sure if people would want to stay at home and watch it live on Cobalt Channel 400, or if they were going to venture out. I wasn’t sure if we might have a crowd of 600, so I think it was a manageable crowd size.”

By the end of the night, Sutherland estimated that between 150 and 175 people enjoyed the music.

“We see some different groups come and go so it’s hard to get a true count,” she said. “It’s also a different layout this year so people were spread out more.”

Mike Semrad and the River Hawks out of Lincoln provided a variety of music on opening night. The group has performed all three years of Bands on the Bricks, though Semrad confirmed that this year’s gig felt different.

“It’s a pleasure being here live because we’ve been playing a lot of music online,” he told the crowd as the music began. “It feels good to play for a real audience.”

Guests were asked to bring their own lawn chairs to this year’s Bands on the Bricks debut. That was not a problem for many who appeared relaxed, comfortable and ready to enjoy a community event.

“It’s so nice to see people in an open air space having a good time,” said Ricardo Riqueza, pastor of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Kronborg. “Kids are playing and everyone is having a nice time.”

Riqueza said he believes local residents are anxious to get out and see one another, which was evident in his own church experience.

“Facebook live online church is so artificial,” he said. “I know a lot of people pray, but once we were able to get together at church that was fantastic. It was the same thing tonight. I’ve very thankful for the town putting this together.”

Laurie Andrews had her attention divided between watching the band on stage, and her young granddaughter, Noel, who is visiting from Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

“It’s nice to spend time in the community and downtown,” she said.

Asked how she felt about the safety protocol for community events and gatherings, Andrews said it’s a topic she’s been thinking a lot about.

“Right now it’s just fun to relax and enjoy the music, but I just want to teach,” she said. “That’s all I can say. You know how much I love teaching.”

Sutherland thanked all who attended for coming, reinforcing the safety guidelines in an effort to keep people healthy moving forward.

“We want to keep everyone safe and healthy and we want to make it through all six weeks without making the news because we have become a hot spot,” she said. “We want you to be social and we want you to have fun, wave and smile at your fiends, but let’s try to keep that distance.” Week 2 in the summer

Week 2 in the summer concert series is set for Friday, when The People will take the stage at 6 p.m., followed by Orchard Fire on July 24.

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